The FAR Council issued a final rule effective July 22, 2013 to “improve contract surveillance by clarifying the contracting officer’s representative (COR) responsibilities.”  Michael Jackson, Procurement Analyst for GSA, said that the rule was mainly administrative in nature, to clean up language in the FAR at 1.602-2(d) and 7.104.  The change at 7.104 is significant because it raises the awareness of the procurement team to appoint a COR as early in the acquisition planning as possible.  It is thought that if the COR is involved from the very start of a project, he or she will make a more effective contribution.  The case arose out of the DoD Panel on Contracting Integrity recommendation. This panel, consisting of senior level DoD procurement executives, reviews the progress made by DoD to eliminate areas of vulnerability in the defense contracting systems that allow fraud, waste and abuse to occur.  There have been many cases of contractor malfeasance that have led to excessive contract costs and overruns, and it is possible that these costs could have been avoided with better contractor surveillance by a properly trained and authorized COR.

The case and subsequent FAR revisions are to a somewhat newer section of the FAR.  Previously, the FAR made no mention of a COR at all, and it was a purely internal administrative assignment.  Now, COR’s have specific training requirements to achieve and maintain a certification level. With the addition of strong and clear FAR language, it further emphasizes the importance the government places on having contract performance monitored.  The language at 1.602 (d) reads like it came from the Contracting Officer’s delegation letter, with such details as the COR shall be;

–       Qualified by training and experience commensurate with the responsibilities delegated

–       NOT authorized to make and changes or commitments that affect price, quality, quantity delivery or any other terms and conditions of the contract, nor in any way direct the contractor or subcontractors to operate in conflict with the contract terms and conditions

–       Specifies the limit to the COR’s authority

–       The COR may be held personally liable for unauthorized acts.

Having the FAR clarify and emphasize the COR’s role in contract enforcement is a good for the federal government contracting community.  By codifying the requirements and responsibilities of a COR, it lends weight and respectability to an all-too-often overlooked government function.  We have all seen instances when a government contract turned into an absolute disaster, hopefully, this clarification will help avoid them in the future.

James Concannon, MSA
© 2014